What is an online letting agent?

While many would suggest that the property market has been relatively slow to react to the online revolution, the letting agency sector has benefited more than most. The ability to remove the cumbersome costs of a high street presence, in exchange for one central office, have slashed the cost base for modern day online letting agents. As a consequence, traditional letting agents are struggling to compete on cost which is changing the whole landscape of the industry.

Searching online is quick and convenient

There have been many surveys regarding the use of the Internet by would-be tenants. A staggering 92% of prospective tenants confirmed that they use the Internet as their first port of call. This has led to the emergence of enormous property companies such as Rightmove and Zoopla attracting both tenants and landlords in large numbers. There are many benefits to using online letting agents as opposed to traditional high street branches. While some may argue there is a loss of “personal interaction” this does not seem to be a problem during the initial search stage.

Attractions of an online letting agent

There are many factors to take into consideration when looking at online letting agents, whether you are a tenant or a landlord. These include:-

Simplified searches

Rather than scouring through letting agents adverts, and making endless phone calls it, is now possible to check multiple properties in different areas online. In the blink of an eye you can further slash the number of properties on your radar by using a filter, focusing on your budget, type of property, etc. So, rather than ploughing through endless properties, many of which won’t be relevant, you have an instant list of real prospects. As a landlord, the modern day online letting agent will also have access to the likes of Rightmove and Zoopla, thereby significantly increasing your exposure and chances of attracting a tenant.

Online communication

While the Internet has changed many ways in which businesses operate, it is perhaps the ability to communicate 24/7 which has changed the business arena forever. During traditional working hours you will likely receive an almost instant reply, while outside of working hours you won’t have too long to wait. The opportunity to put your thoughts, ideas and suggestions on an email also helps to avoid confusion.

Identity checks

Many online letting agents will carry out identity checks and reference gathering for potential tenants as standard. This ensures that you are abiding by all relevant laws and pre-warned of any potential issues tenants may have had in the past. Often confused with potential discrimination, referencing services and identity checks are very different.

Keeping up with regulations

Those who have been involved in the private rental sector will be well aware of the major regulatory changes in recent years. This has led to an array of new liabilities being placed upon the shoulders of private landlords with many unaware of these legal obligations. As a consequence, online letting agents will be up to date with the latest regulations, advise you of forthcoming changes and offer you guidance with planning ahead. It is in their best interests to retain landlords/tenants in the long-term and is best described as a win-win situation for all.

Third party escrow accounts

Whether a potential tenant or a landlord, you will no doubt have received/made a number of enquiries where other parties have failed to follow through on their initial promises. This may be down to a number of issues but the use of third party escrow accounts can act as a means of firming up any interest. Once initial discussions have been concluded, the payment of a refundable/non-refundable deposit ensures exclusivity and gives the landlord confidence to prepare paperwork and move to the next stage.

Automation and new technology

The reason why online letting agents are so successful is because they utilise the latest technology and automated systems. The use of simple search facilities allows tenants to filter down options to those they can afford - thereby reducing the number of enquiries which will effectively go nowhere. Simple video and 3-D technology can give a greater in depth look at properties available to tenants. A frequently asked questions section can cover areas of confusion and answer simple questions which prospective tenants are often afraid to ask.

Additional services

A number of online letting agents have become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, offering extremely attractive rates for core services. Many also offer additional services which are central to landlord/tenant relationships going forward. The ability to create this “one stop shop” is a win-win for all parties and one of the main reasons why online letting agents have become so influential.

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